Zahra Rahnavard: Iran’s New First Lady (We Hope)

Watch out (or celebrate), Iran, Zahra Rahnavard may be your next Hillary Clinton. She’s an artist, a politician, and also the fire behind husband Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s presidential campaign. From what I’ve seen, it appears she might even have more followers than he does — crowds of women (and men) roar when she shows up to an event.

Rahnavard doesn’t resemble the wives of most Iranian political figures, who tend to stay quiet and concealed from the public. She’s anything but invisible, and the woman is not afraid to speak her mind. When conservative campaign rival President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused her of “skirting government rules” to earn her degrees (which, by the way, include a bachelors and masters in art, and a masters and doctorate in political science), she publicly reprimanded him. The Los Angeles Times reported her rebuttal: “Either [Ahmadinejad] cannot tolerate highly educated women or he’s discouraging women from playing an active role in society,” she said.

Rahnavard has written 15 books, served as the chancellor of Al-zahra University, and has had three daughters (who will hopefully follow in her footsteps). But what’s more inspiring to her fans is the seemingly modern relationship she and her husband share (surprisingly more modern than Mousavi’s political views, which are less reformist than they appear). The two hold hands in public—a gesture that is not commonly seen between Iranian politicians and their wives—and Rahnavard gives speeches for her husband when he is campaigning elsewhere.

Breaking from tradition, Mousavi (often referred to as “husband of Rahnavard”) has placed his wife at the forefront of his campaign. And it’s a good thing he did, because her supporters, who can hardly contain themselves, will likely vote for Mousavi, come tomorrow. If I were an Iranian citizen, I probably would too, even if just to hear his wife’s followers chanting, “Rahnavard, Rahnavard, equality of woman and man!” [Los Angeles Times, CNN]